Story Time: It’s Trust, Therefore It’s Personal

Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on ways to lead with trust. Our last story illustrated how one conversation changed everything. Today’s selection highlights  the value of making a personal connection.

A New Anthology

When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.

Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on selling to the C-suite. It vividly demonstrates the value of paying attention to more than just the task-at-hand, and taking the risk to put personal before business.

From the Front Lines: Taking a Chance on Connection

Gary Celli tells a story of the business value of building trust quickly with a C-level client.

“I was working in California for a multi-national high-tech company. I was a project manager at the time, and the project I was leading was rife with difficulties—nothing atypical, just the usual stuff. We were also trying to position additional work with the customer.

“One day, the CIO asked specifically to meet with me. Until that point I had been dealing with his directors, so he and I hadn’t spent any time together beyond a brief interaction at the big project kickoff meeting. You can imagine I was a little on edge about the meeting.

“The first thing I noticed when I arrived at his office was what a mess it was. There were papers all over the place. One chair was so stacked with stuff it wasn’t usable. I glanced around and noticed a copy of the Scranton Journal on the floor—the magazine for my alma mater, the University of Scranton, a small Jesuit university in Pennsylvania. I looked around for a diploma on the wall, but didn’t see anything. So I asked about the magazine.

“It turns out that we were both graduates, now living nearly 3,000 miles away in California. Talking about that really helped break the ice and took the edge off. We spent 30 minutes reminiscing about the school, the campus, the local hang-out bar that all the kids went to. Then we spent about 15 minutes talking about project issues.

“It was a very successful meeting. The bond we had established made it possible for me to glean more information from him and he seemed very open to hearing my perspectives on the project. We got to the heart of the matter in no time. My company also got the follow-on work, and the CIO was a loyal client for years to come.”

—Gary Celli

What’s your next opportunity to make it personal?


Read more stories about trust:


Many Trusted Advisor programs now offer CPE credits.  Please call Tracey DelCamp for more information at 856-981-5268–or drop us a note @ [email protected].

The Surprising Reason You Lost That Last Sale

How many times do we hear from someone out of the blue and wonder what it is they are after?

Recently I met a CEO from an ASX top 200 (our Aussie version of DJI or FTSE 100) company at a social event. I had gotten to know him through my work with a Big 4 firm. Our conversation turned to the Partner who had completed much work for his company.

I asked, “Have you seen X recently?” He replied in words to the effect of, “I haven’t heard from him for a couple of years. He must be too important to contact me nowadays.”

The Partner in question had since taken on very senior roles within the firm, and even though the comment was meant in jest, I think there was a tone of underlying disappointment. I’m sure they had spent many hours together, probably talking not just about work, but about personal issues as well. Intimacy would have developed over time.

Now in the rear view mirror of time, this CEO may have come to believe that the care shown at the time by the Partner was not authentic, that it was used only as self-interest to gain revenue.

This I know would not have been the case; but certainly may now have become the perception.

This reinforces to me the importance of the simple ‘checking in’ call. It reminds me of Mizner’s, “Always be nice to people on the way up; because you’ll meet the same people on the way down

The same man said, “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he gets to know something.”

As you may know, the power of listening is a core theme in The Trusted Advisor and Trust based Selling.

At this time of year I remember a story, which at the time surprised me, but which I now completely understand.

A number of years ago I asked a friend what criteria he had used to decide on a service provider for a facility management contract. He said it was a difficult decision; the 3 tender documents he received were similar, the people he met from each firm were all credible and seemed to be people he could work with. The clincher for him was that only one of the tenderers sent him a best wishes card for the holiday. That’s the firm he chose.

As Trust-based Selling suggests, it’s the ‘hard’ credentials that buyers consider necessary conditions and which they use to screen. But it’s the ‘soft’ credentials that are the tie-breakers, the sufficient conditions, that buyers use to make the final selection.

I also find inspiration regarding the importance of personal connection from an odd couple: an 18th century postmaster, and an early Greek philosopher:

“I love a hand that meets my own grasp that causes some sensation” (Samuel Osgood).

“A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one” (Heraclitus of Ephesus)